We launched our zine at Strawberry Fair, a place where everyone in and around Cambridge comes together to celebrate life, solidarity and self-made things; the perfect place for us to launch our zine that is so DIY that even after printing 140 copies of each page we had to manually correct a few things (a digital version of zine is coming up shortly for you to print and distribute).
We were honoured to share a marquee with Food Not Bombs Cambridge, who raised an incredible amount of food donations to make beautiful meals for the community very soon. We also had our brave animal soldiers nearby, the local Hunt Saboteurs, who have raised a generous amount of money and will soon be able to buy a vehicle. Both groups have women as key organisers. We are so proud to see the local activist scene to be carried so strongly on women’s shoulders! Of course the Fellaship Sanctuary’s Emily was also there and helped with her magic wherever she could. We owe a big thank you to all of them, as well as to everybody who helped put the zine together.
A lesson in dealing with ‘knowledge dumps’ and huggers
At the event, we, of course, expected a lot of backlash from the general population of carnists who hate vegans. Being at a liberal festival like that, we were also prepared to deal with carnist feminists who would feel offended by women who show that supporting anymals (Lisa Kemmerer defines anymals as those animals who are not human) is a feminist obligation. Thankfully we didn’t experience any of the expected hostility.
We did however, come across a bunch of people who love to dump knowledge on others – or rather they came across us. One person, upon reading our banner ‘women against oppression’ said to us: ‘I find your sign oppressive, it’s dividing genders and I live in a genderless world’. After explaining to the person that we would love to be in this beautiful place of a post-gender world, but unfortunately we face a lot of harassment and violence on an everyday basis, we made another ally.
Another man, walking by our tent, surrounded by two female-presenting people on each side, waved me over. The slight hand gesture he made was comparable to the demanding and condescending way waitresses get called over. I approached, smiling at him, whilst internally an alarm went off at 120 decibel. He demanded me to tell him under 1 minute (in other words: under his conditions) what anti-speciesism was. After giving him the speech, him and his enthusiastic company were all very fascinated and understanding. We had a short conversation between all of us until he thought of the most brilliant question to trip me up: ‘What about men’s rights?!’ Before I even caught a breath, two people in his company put him very firmly in his place, informing him that I am a woman, so I will do women’s rights, which seemed enough of a reason for him to not question my rationale for being part of this group any longer.
We also had allies explaining the shit out of our cause. They either had meter long lists of literature that we simply had to know about if we wanted to be considered knowledgable in our field, or they held lessons in politics. One proud ally, made very clear that he supported us and was vegan himself, as if prematurely justifying the slight hostility that came next. So after establishing that he is on our side, he started interrogating us on our political stance, asking whether we practice anarchism. Assuming we did, he asked, without giving us a second to respond to his previous question, what kind of anarchism it was that we supported. Again without leaving any space for us to speak he started mentioning all the branches of anarchism that would fit to us. Once we managed to interrupt him, we said: ‘We don’t want to be labelled. All we can say is that we reject kyriarchy as a whole, and with it any form of masters, lords and patriarchs’. That ended the conversation. His kind of behaviour, of interrogating, opening up and looking into women (metaphorically and literally) is an age-old tactic of kyriarchy. It’s what feminist psychoanalyst and educator Luce Irigaray calls Specularisation. It aids in the process of objectification by opening up, identifying, labelling and hierarchically categorising the Other (in this case our group). The analogy to the speculum here is intended.
We also had an incident with a person whose alcohol intake caused them to stagger. They did manage however to come over to one of us demanding a hug. The Anti-Speciesists Woman affected by this behaviour reacted brilliantly, stretching out her arm in front of her, with the flat palm of her hand blocking the person’s body from approaching any further. She spoke firmly to him, saying he should not assume. ‘Don’t assume’ had to be said multiple times until the person backed off, eventually apologising, to which the woman offered them a hand shake, which they welcomed.
Except for these occasional instanced we managed to hand out 140 zines to interested people from all over the UK. We did go home happy and proud, concluding that it had been an amazing day, with lots of positive feedback. We do have proof of all the good vibes we exchanged in pictures, which you can find here.